Sunday, 16 October 2011

National Chocolate Week: The Great Chocolate Cake Off

It is National Chocolate Week.

It is basically a watertight excuse to eat chocolate. Celebrations have included the World's Largest Chocolate Bar. It weighs almost six tonnes, but all I want to know is... who got to eat it?!

And the grand finale was this weekend: Chocolate Unwrapped, an extravaganza of all thing chocolate. And venue for the Great Chocolate Cake Off.

I haven't entered a cooking competition since...well, ever. I don't think entering the 'Vegetable Animal' class at Capel Banger Village Show circa 1989 counts.

If I were writing an Official Inquiry into my entry, it would go a little like this:

Poor. Made partly during the Wales v France Semi-Final of the Rugby World Cup. Nerves on a knife-edge, emotions gone hay-wire. Concentration on cake = 35%.

Poor. Cake transported from North West to South East London on the tube in state of High Anxiety, not least when large group of French schoolchildren jumped on at Baker Street in Jostling, Excitable State. Stared daggers at them in manner of deranged woman carrying large cake on tube, not to be messed with. 

Poor. Outright panic at sight of other entries. Impending sense of doom when clapped eyes on spun sugar creations. Cold fear at fellow contestant's chocolate tampering and acetate decorations.

Judging took place behind closed doors. Did not win. On plus side entry to the Festival involved considerable sampling of chocolate. Therefore, definitely a winner.

A Celebration of Chocolate (Cake)

This cake would like to meet a serious chocolate lover, with a good sense of taste and greed (one slice will never, ever be enough.)


For the cake:

225g plain flour
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
90g Valrhona Cocoa Powder (available from Paul A Young stores)
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 tbsps buttermilk
110ml oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Union coffee granules

For the ganache:

200g Lindt Excellence 70% dark chocolate, chopped
250ml double cream
2 tbsps light muscovado sugar

For the decoration:

40g Thorntons White Chocolate Buttons
50g Hotel Du Chocolat White Chocolate batons
50g Divine Milk Chocolate


1) Preheat the oven to 170C
2) Grease and line 2 x 8 inch/20 cm round tins, also greasing the inside of the pan
3) Sift the flour, sugars, cocoa powder, bicarbonate, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix to combine
4) In a second bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla until throughly combined
5) Mix the coffee granules into a cup of hot water and with the electric mixer on 'low' slowly mix to combine with the dry ingredeints. Add the buttermilk mixture to this and mix again on a low speed until all the ingredients are combined
6) Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean
7) To make the ganache: Pop the chopped chocolate into a bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan, add the sugar and heat, stirring gently until just about to boil
8) Take off the heat, allow to cool for 1-2 minutes, then pour over the chocolate. Mix well until glossy and smooth and set aside for an hour or two to thicken
9) Sandwich the two layers together with the ganache
10) For decoration: To make the 'star' chocolates, melt 75g of the white chocolate batons in a small pyrex bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water on a gentle heat. Pour into star chocolate moulds and leave to chill in the fridge until set
11) Meanwhile, using a microplane, firstly grate the milk chocolate over the cake and, secondly, using a star stencil, grate the white chocolate to form the central star
12) Finally, use the stars to decorate around the cake

Baker's notes...

  • The cake is based on a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa
  • A chocolate chef (my favourite kind) at Chocolate Unwrapped recommended using honey rather than sugar in the ganache, as the granules of sugar can be a little gritty. He also suggested using a handheld blender once you've mixed in the cream and chocolate to ensure an extra smooth ganache.
  • This was the brilliant winner and here is a sneaky picture of the other entries


  1. It looks absolutely fabulous and sounds gorgeous and those judges need their heads examined! Transporting cakes is a bit of a nightmare - I had a car load to take to a friend's yesterday winding up and down tight bended and hilly lanes, I'm amazed any of them arrived in one piece at all. They didn't get there looking as good as when they started though.

  2. Your cake is brilliant! Congratulations on getting it there in one piece. Just getting myself out of the tube in one piece can be a challenge let alone when carrying a cake!

  3. Oh, so this was your cake, I remember I thought it looks nice with the stars when I saw it in the kitchen. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I am really curious what cakes the other contestants baked.
    I'm going to publish mine later this week! :)

  4. Looks AMAZING. Wish I could eat it.

  5. Well I would have voted for you as your cake recipe and look is just up my street!
    I will be adding a few chocolate recipes to some blogging events this month, including your joint tea time treat challenge with Karen.....
    Hope your well & truly chocced out!

  6. LOL! Loved this post Kate and I would have voted for you too! GORGEOUS cake too, lush!

  7. This looks like a winning cake to me! I would love to have a slice... or two!

  8. Great post, and yes who the heck ate it? Just not fair in my books. I'm sure you have inspiration for another though, right? righhttt!
    Take care :)

  9. I had a look at the other cakes and honestly, they had nothing on yours! Your cake looks and sounds really decadent, and I love the stars decor. Don't you just wish there could be a National Chocolate Year? ;-)

  10. You was robbed! (as they say). That is definitely a winner. I think it looks fantastic. Great tip about the ganache.

  11. Oh yum, yum, yum, this looks so amazing! Well done on a fabulous Chocolate Cake


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